Hemel Stags Preview
Bears face arch-rivals Stags this weekend
Bears v Stags, Butts Park Arena, Sunday August 6th kick-off 3pm. Match preview by Mike Hyde
If there is a familiar feel about this fixture, it is because the rivalry between the two teams goes back to their amateur days, when they were both giants at the top of the unpaid game.
Hemel took the brave step of joining the semi-pro setup before the Bears, and their ways parted for a while.
Then when Bears also joined Kingstone Press League 1 three years ago, the rivalry recommenced.
And bringing matters up to date, by another quirk of the fixtures, this will be the third encounter between the two sides at Butts Park this season, with no fixtures being fought in Hertfordshire.
The first game this season was a pre-season warm up game with nothing at stake and both sides using the occasion to try out new players and ideas.
Hemel came out victorious that day as Tom Tsang’s side had yet to really gel together.
However, when it came to the league game where it really mattered, Bears built up a comfortable 22-6 lead at half time, only to fade away letting the Stags into a 22-24 lead with minutes to go.
Thankfully the Bears, possibly still tired after the previous weekend’s Toronto trip, summoned up their energy reserves and pulled it back to 28-24 for a hard earned victory and nail-biting finish for the Butts Park crowd.
Both sides have struggled to gain victories since that game but Hemel did beat Oxford last weekend and are now on the same number of points as the Bears but with an inferior scoring record.
Controversially, the Hemel side train in Dewsbury and mainly utilise players from Yorkshire where the game is very popular and there are many players available.
Meanwhile the Bears have recently declared a strategy to develop players based in or committed to the southern half of the country, a more long-term solution to growing the sport, and in complete contrast to the Stags.
Sunday may be too early to validate either strategy, but a good crowd is expected for what is always a tense and close game. Come on you Bears!
Bears v Stags, Butts Park Arena, Sunday August 6th kick-off 3pm